Note: I made some immature Mormon angry because of my negative reviews of books that attempted to prove the Book of Mormon, and that person has been slamming my reviews almost as fast as they are posted.
I must have really burned him or her because I've deleted this review and re-posted it and within an hour, I had a "not helpful" vote. Give me a break. That person's faith must be very fragile, indeed. Oh, well.
I'm trying to be "helpful," and you can see that it took some work to put this review together.
So, your "helpful" votes are appreciated. Thanks, and I hope you find some enjoyable quotations (below) from Boswell's wonderful book, but first a little history.
Samuel Johnson, the irascible but generous lexicographer of the eighteenth century, is mostly remembered because of Boswell, and Boswell is remembered because he wrote Johnson's biography.
At the time, Johnson was already famous for his "Dictionary of the English Language," an impressive work for the year 1755. Among many other writings, Johnson put out an edition of Shakespeare's works (1765), with valuable notes that are still referred to today.
Johnson published a "series of grave and moral discourses" in the periodical called the Rambler, but when it was translated into Italian, it came out as the ludicrous "El Vagabondo," something far from Johnson's pious intentions. And of good intentions, it was Johnson who said, "Sir, Hell is paved with good intentions."
"(Johnson's) defense of tea against Mr. Jonas Hanway's violent attack upon that elegant and popular beverage, shows how very well a man of genius can write upon the slightest subject, when he writes, as the Italians say, con amore."
Johnson despised Americans and was prejudiced against Scotland. He said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."
Johnson was a male chauvinist. Yet, he was "a king of men." He was a "robust genius, born to grapple with whole libraries," and although "indolence and procrastination were inherent in his constitution, whenever he made an exertion he did more than any one else."
As a person who is afraid of death in the normal sense, I was surprised that in spite of being very religious, Johnson had an extreme fear of death. "'The better a man is, the more afraid he is of death, having a clearer view of infinite purity.' Said Boswell, "Johnson owned, that our being in an unhappy uncertainty as to our salvation, was mysterious; and said, 'Ah! We must wait till we are in another state of being, to have many things explained to us.' Even the powerful mind of Johnson seemed foiled by futurity."
Boswell's commentary brings to mind a story told by St. Augustine in his monumental City of God. A philosopher was abroad a ship captained by a bad man, and after a violent storm, the fearless captain jeered the philosopher for his terror. Said the philosopher, quoting from a similar incident that occurred to the pagan Aristippus, 'A rogue need not worry about losing his worthless life, but Aristippus has a duty to care for a life like his."
"Johnson knew more books than any man alive. He had a peculiar facility in seizing at once what was valuable in any book, without submitting to the labour of perusing it from beginning to end." But he also held that it was important to "read diligently the great book of mankind."
"Why, Sir, I am a man of the world. I live in the world, and I take, in some degree, the color of the world as it moves along."
Johnson was also the one who said, "When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."
"I love Blair's Sermons," Johnson said. "Though the dog is a Scotchman, and a Presbyterian, and every thing that he should not be, I was the first to praise them. Such was my candor," he said with a smile."